The Life of a Commuting Student

The agony of the A64 and other chaos

Being an avid Leeds lass and a huge home bird, the thought of leaving home for university
was daunting to say the least. But arriving at the York open days and confronting the
astronomical accommodation prices made this frightening concept an unrealistic option
considering my close proximity to campus and my ability to drive. Thus, the college
brochures were tossed aside and I tried to remain positive about the prospects of making
friends and socialising.

Of course this all came crashing down as the pandemic hit, and whilst I heard horror stories
of endless self-isolation and COVID-19 cases on campus, anything seemed better than the
desperate isolation I was feeling at home. Being so lonely created for me a feeling that
nobody was struggling with the course content as much as I was, that everybody watched
every lecture, attended every seminar and perfectly understood all of the reading. If only I
had realised that this was entirely not the case and I definitely wasn’t alone in being hella
confused. My first year of university was extremely isolating and although I was placed into
Vanbrugh College, assigned to the specialised newsletters and was trying my best to make
friends on Zoom, it remained fairly bleak at times. The help on offer was a nice gesture,
however being invited to a Christmas dinner for potentially lonely students only dampened
my mood and serious FOMO.

Fast-forwarding from the doom and gloom and second year started, with me matching Zoom
names to faces and desperately asking for directions around a campus that was completely
alien to me. Thankfully I had managed to make some amazing friends that were immensely
patient and understanding, despite me getting lost approximately four times a day. The
amazing students and sense of community was the light at the end of the tunnel that I had
genuinely been reaching out for in my time studying at home. After completing second year
I now have a favourite study spot, lunch spot and I know where the majority of the buildings
are – though don’t hold me to it!

Travelling on motorways is also dramatically unpredictable. To say the journey should
theoretically take 33 minutes, it more often pushes towards an hour, which is difficult to
manage as I sometimes travel before/after work. As a commuting student I can also feel a
tad forgotten about in scenarios such as my car park randomly closing without any prior
warning. There is absolutely nothing worse than facing rush hour traffic to arrive at a closed
car park.

All in all, things are looking much better. I think support for students who may be off
campus for longer periods of time needs improving massively to promote inclusion and
reassurance. And if you see someone such as myself power walking with great ferocity
across campus to get to class, bear in mind that we might have been stuck in traffic or trying
to park the car in an alternative place!

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